Berkeley Grp Hlds -Trading Statement
The Berkeley Group Holdings plc ("Berkeley" or the "Company") is holding its Annual General Meeting today, at which it will provide the following Trading Update which covers the period from 1 May 2018 to 31 August 2018. Berkeley is the country's leading place-maker, operating principally in London and the South East, balancing strong operational performance with a desire to produce homes of a high quality and creating fantastic communities for our customers across all tenures.
"In the first four months of this new financial year, market conditions in London and the South East have remained consistent with those reported with the full year results in June. Pricing has remained robust as there is demand for good quality, well located homes that enhance communities and meet the local housing need.
In essence, this is a market that lacks urgency and London remains constrained by high transaction costs, restrictive income multiple limits on mortgage borrowing and prevailing economic uncertainty, accentuated by Brexit. These headwinds affect all segments of the market from home movers to downsizers and investors alike. A functioning housing market, where good new development can deliver much needed additionality across all tenures, requires conditions for growth and low barriers to entry which are currently absent from the housing market in London and the South East.
In the current operating environment, Berkeley is finding opportunities to invest in and has acquired five new sites in the period. Subject to any large land transactions that might arise before 31 October 2018, Berkeley anticipates that net cash at the half year will be above the year-end position of £687.3 million.
Taken together with trading in the first four months of the year, this strong financial position, coupled with the visibility provided by its forward sales and land bank, enables the Board to reaffirm its guidance to deliver at least £3.375 billion of pre-tax profits for the five year period from 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2021, with at least £1.575 billion pre-tax profit to be delivered in the two years ending 30 April 2019.
As announced on 16 August 2018 a dividend of £44.0 million, or 33.30 pence per share, will be paid to shareholders on 14 September 2018 with the remainder of the £139.2 million return for the six months ending 30 September 2018 having already been satisfied through share buy-backs of £95.2 million. The Company also announced that the next six-monthly return of £139.2 million (£1.06 per share) will be made by 31 March 2019, with the amount to be paid as dividend to be announced in February 2019, taking account of any share buy-backs in the intervening period.